The Emerald Isle is known for a lot of things like leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, Guinness, and St. Patrick. Naturally rich in natural wonders, the island is not deprived of stunning man-made wonders as well. The castles all over the country proves that to be true.
Irish castles are popular tourist attractions that a lot of tours are made just to bring visitors to these attractions. Unlike British castles that were primarily built for royalty, Irish castles were built for defense which enhance their medieval appeal.
Moats and high fortified walls are seen in most Irish castles that were built from the 11th century up to the 15th century. Those that have characteristically more elaborate designs were built during the flamboyant Georgian era or neo gothic revival age.
With so many castles all over Ireland, some in ruins, which ones are the best ones to see? Here are five of those.
Built in 1142, former stronghold of the Butler family, Cahir Castle is one of the largest and well-preserved castles in Ireland. It has all the elements that a medieval castle should have – dungeons, defenses, moat, towers, and turrets which makes it well-worth visiting.
Cahir Castle is open to visitors during mid-September, October, June, and March. Make sure to book beforehand if traveling with a group. Admission will cost €1.25 for kidsand €2.75 for adults.
Castle at the Mouth of the Ratty or Bunratty Castle was built during the 15th century in County Clare, Ireland along the river. In the 16th century, this castle served as one of the major strongholds of Thormond. Now, the castle is considered a major tourist attraction with Bunratty Folk Park.
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is open all year round. Admission will cost €9 for kids and €15 for adults.
While in Ireland, might as well kiss the Blarney Stone. Kissing the Blarney Stone to get the “gift of gab” has been sort of a ritual for those that get to visit this castle in Cork County. The ritual seems to be attributed to the Lord of Blarney that always answered the Queen with flamboyant flattery rather than submission.
Blarney Castle is not as well-maintained as the other castles in Ireland, but it is always worth visiting. The surrounding area is so beautiful that it seems surreal. It has that fairy tale like setting. The castle has different opening times, but it is open all year round.
The medieval city of Kilkenny is renowned for its beauty. Kilkenny Castle, built in 1195 and completed in 1213, adds to that beauty. This former residence of the Earls of Pembroke and Butler was sold to the people in 1967 for £50.
Now, the Office of Public Works manages the property. After major maintenance and restoration, the castle now hosts exhibitions by the Kilkenny Art Gallery Society. The castle’s Parade Tower is now a conference venue as well. Graduation ceremonies of students from the National University of Ireland in Kilkenny has been held here since 2002.
Kilkenny Castle is open to visitors all year round, but at different opening and closing times. Admission will cost €2 for kids and €5 for adults.
Rock of Cashel
Also called St. Patrick’s Rock and Cashel of the Kings, Rock of Cashel is an interesting site not just for its structure, but for its story as well. Local myths say that the Rock of Cashel originally came from Devil’s Bit where St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave. When Satan was banished, the Rock landed in Cashel.
Rock of Cashel is a complex with a chapel and cathedral worth visiting. It houses the most remarkable collection of medieval architecture and Celtic art which makes it a “must see” castle in Ireland.
Restoration work is currently on-going for the chapel area, but the rest of the buildings are open to visitors all year round at different opening and closing times. Admission will cost €2 for kids and €6 for adults.
Those are just five castles that all visitors must check out while they’re in Ireland. They may be in different locations which might make it difficult for those who just plan to visit a particular region, but all of them are truly worth seeing.
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